Thursday, February 6, 2014

2013

As the year is coming to an end, it is always the time for the annual review.  How time has fly, I don’t remember having 365 days or 12 months passing me by. Recalling my tradition of years in an economic point of view, 2013 is a turning point, a point turning from depression to a growth hopefully. The last words on my 2012 year in review were ‘I hope 2013 will be redemption’. Thanking God, indeed it is redemption.

The ups:

Scholarship to fulfill the Australian Dream
The journey started as early as beginning of January. I didn’t see it coming at all. I quickly immersed in pools of applications and was slammed by my Economics lecturer, ‘If I am going to give you a forecast, it will be a FAIL’. Boy those words hit me hard, real hard. I moved on to the first interview, for the sake of fun and trial. The next thing I knew, I was invited to the second interview. It was a 40 minutes chat with a panel of judges, topics ranging from personal commitments, parenthood, education, Singaporean politics and aspirations. It was a 50-50 chance for a long lost dream, and God has given me a second chance. By end of April, I was in an award ceremony, hailed as a recipient and an ambassador. I got myself a golden ticket to Australasia, and finally gotten out of the country and stepping out from South East Asia.
Life in a Proper University and Independence
It was a 6-year dream comes true. I started applying for scholarship at the age of 15. I’ve probably photocopied thousands of certificates and gotten them certified by professionals who are sick of seeing my face. I always wanted a huge and independent campus life, which I don’t need to rely on my parents for transport and financial means. I guess the main reason why I wasn’t happy with HELP, is relying on my parents for transport arrangement and using their money to fund half of my first year education. The university is beautiful, it wasn’t an ancient looking or with a huge population, but it was down to earth, peaceful and quiet. Exactly what I wanted and needed after 20 years in a big city.

Life in a Foreign Country
My gym instructor travels a lot, and expresses his admiration for my opportunity to live in a foreign country. He says ‘it is different!’ Yes, it is very different. I didn’t carry commitments concerning other people in Canberra, everything was about me. My growth, my needs, my wants, my desires, my education, my life; instead of family concerns, volunteer commitments, the curriculum vitae, friends’ wellbeing, etc. I don’t hate my life in Malaysia, but it was very exhausting to keep up at times. In Canberra, I do appreciate the ‘me’ time and I love it. It is the right place and best time to build a lifestyle and to nurture myself. I realized when I was in Canberra, that I have reached a spiritual level where I wasn’t grumpy or angry at things that I should be mad on. Life in a foreign country is sweet. Now I just need to improvise on it.

First Semester Results
Consider I have studied first year of UOL, first semester in university should be easy. Heck it isn’t. The transition from an Australian balanced pre-university system to UK’s exam based system was a struggle. I spent 8 months falling in love with UOL, and I have to fall out of love in 4 months, it was quite a torture. The first semester was fine, except I find myself struggling in Microeconomics and Actuarial Math. I am glad I did well in Statistics, considered the fact I did quite badly in UOL’s Statistics. The only thing I couldn’t be disciplined is probably in studies. I love studying and the adrenaline rush of exams. But I don’t like the rigid way of studying for the sakes of exams.  I am still working out the ultimate best way of studying. I almost screw up the first semester with my stubbornness, but thankfully, I didn’t.  

Internship
I have always wanted an internship in a bank under the Finance Department. It was supposed to be in June – August during my UOL break. Oh well, I am now with an Islamic Insurance institution, in a Finance Department. It wasn’t a smooth sailing start, it always take a while to get used to a new environment and companion.  But I am learning and learning a lot, could have been more and better. I am glad I took up this internship even though I am now returning to an exhausting lifestyle with a weekday job, gym and volunteering on weekends. I basically don’t have an off day.

Holding on 2012 Practices
Two main practices I held on to, is being semi-vegetarian and a committed volunteering work. The former, stays strong despite staying in one of the coldest city in Australia and the freshness of meat and poultry available around. The latter, I am not the best committed member, but I hanged on to it. Similarly to gym, it is one of the very few moments that I turn off the thinking factory. The members, care like a mother, scold like a father, fun like a sibling. There were still times I want to just stay home and relax but I realize there is this sense of fulfillment brings me back to them every week.

Annual Solo Trip
Didn’t mean to make it annual but I am considering establishing it as an annual commitment. Last year I covered Singapore, partially solo. This year, I covered Sydney extensively in 4 days, solo. It was quite an adventure, and I love every single second of it. From staying in a stranger place, travelling with 35kg worth of luggage to a suburb, some shocking encounters, extreme walking mileage, sinful food, etc, the trip was great. And I really have fallen in love with Canberra, Sydney just like Kuala Lumpur, is way to too noisy, busy and crowded.

The downs:

UOL First Year Flop
I guess I was devastated by the pain of failing to secure a scholarship. UOL or maybe HELP isn’t appealing to me. It wasn’t what I wanted for university. At the same time, I was hugely distracted by the returning hope of a dream. I could have just sat back and relaxed, instead of spending time and tears studying for UOL. The results were beyond expectation, added with some elements of surprised. If only, I can continue UOL after falling in love with it.

Relationship Scare
It’s not a year with relationship but I do hear some relationship experiences which frightens me. I guess I am afraid to get hurt and can’t afford to get hurt. I have both group of friends, single people at their mid-thirties and attached people at their early twenties. The former is happily single, enjoying the freedom pursuing interests. But it has been a series of heartbreaks and breakups from the latter. Staying in Canberra allows me to have peace in mind and really focus on myself, I wasn’t having any crush nor having anyone to crush on or like. Surprisingly, it feels good for a good whole 4 months. I figured if I am going to be attached for 40-50 years assuming I can live up to 70 years old, what’s the big deal of staying single for now.

Miscellaneous Financial Events
Quite an irony, I study Finance yet I can’t control my personal finance well. From losing my first smartphone of 4 years, to a hefty fine, to a series of cheated events, I hate myself for being careless. Nothing much to elaborate on it except myself to blame.
All in all, 2013 has been good; it is a huge turning point of my life. Interesting  enough, I didn’t see any of those coming to me at all. Thank God for those.


The Second Internship Experience


An open concept working environment, where working stations aren’t closed islands and management positions don’t have their own rooms. As quoted by a manager, ‘The manager doesn’t need a secretary to remind deadlines or meetings, they have Blackberry’. I muttered under my breath, ‘But Blackberry is almost over in the market now’. I guess it’s just a rhyming sentence, secretary and Blackberry.

It was similar to my first internship, but a much smaller working desk and comparably lesser tasks. The panoramic view of Kuala Lumpur was quite breathtaking. I immersed myself into the robotic routine. I looked at my previous employer and the future employer every day during my pantry breaks, it almost felt like a daily reminder of the interesting yet difficult past and the uncertain yet exciting future.

It was a bumpy start for a second internship, but I’ve gotten what I wanted, an attachment with a department that I wanted to discover. It wasn’t love at first sight, and it still wasn’t love at last sight. But as usual, things were observed, skills were learned and experiences were absorbed. It certainly raised wonders on ‘is this really what I am going to sign up for in 3-4 years’ time’, but if the search was easy, life wouldn’t be this scarily challenging and we wouldn’t need decades or a lifetime for answers.

I didn't have parents who work in the white collar world but I've always been influenced by the corporate culture. Doing things with principles, rigid but not limited to some creativity. I like the corporate culture with standards of procedure, the routine of a nine-to-five job, the space of your own to let the creativity flows, the meetings that gather the people involved to brainstorm, the ultimate prize when you landed a room of your own, etc etc.

But at the same time, it's the corporate practice of red tape habits and never ending jobs which scares me. I want to be able to finish my work on time, head home for an exercise or work on my part time thing. My colleague reassured me it is only at selected period of time where you will need to stay for overtime work. I questioned his statement. 

One interesting thing I observed, there is a cliché of the types of employees in a department. I made a list, summarising my two previous working colleagues. If I were to categorize myself, it’d definitely be ‘The Overdressed and Awkward Intern’ or ‘The Intern Who Always Seems Busy but Goes Back on the Dot at the End of Working Hours’.

There were times I could take no more, that I blamed myself for putting myself in such unnecessary position and returned to the hectic lifestyle I had before I leave for Australia. But I know, being the usual me, I can't stand a day sitting at home doing nothing. All in all, it’s still better than nil experience. Cheers on a second trial, and toast to the hunger for more.